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Gameday Previews – Saturday, September 10

By Staff, 09/09/22, 12:50PM EDT


Top-two clash in Western Conference highlights busy night of action across Championship

Oakland Roots SC and Phoenix Rising FC square off on Saturday night in a crucial game for the postseason hopes of both clubs in the Western Conference. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

The top two teams in the USL Championship’s Western Conference square off for the second time this season on Saturday night, highlighting a 11-game slate of games that also features key games in the battle for playoff position in the Eastern Conference and multiple games that will shape the race for a postseason berth in the West.

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

Charleston Battery vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Venue: Patriots Point
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: CHS 18%, TBR 60%, Draw 22%

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will look to build on a resounding victory last time out as they head to face a Charleston Battery side that also picked up a good victory on home turf last weekend. The Battery took a 3-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls II at Patriots Point as Augustine Williams scored his 14th goal of the season and Romario Piggott notched a goal and assist. Williams also found the net when the Battery visited the Rowdies in June as Charleston took a 1-1 draw against its hosts at Al Lang Stadium after Leo Fernandes had given the Rowdies a first-half lead. Fernandes notched a pair of goals and one assist last Saturday night, meanwhile, as Tampa Bay took a 6-1 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC to pick up a second consecutive victory. Fernandes leads the Rowdies with 15 goals this season, tied for fourth in the league, while also sitting with a team-high seven assists. Tampa Bay won both of its visits to Patriots Point a season ago, and is undefeated in its last six meetings with the Battery overall, and will be aiming to continue both of those runs as it looks to keep the pressure on Louisville City FC in first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – AJ Paterson:
The Grenada international will need to put in a strong performance defensively against a Rowdies attack that not only features Fernandes but young standout Jake LaCava, who also found the net last Saturday against Las Vegas.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Sebastian Guenzatti: The veteran forward has scored six goals in 14 games against Charleston in his career, tied for the most against a single opponent for Guenzatti in the Championship.

Hartford Athletic vs. FC Tulsa

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: HFD 43%, TUL 33%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa will try to keep its slim playoff hopes alive as it visits Hartford Athletic, which will be led for the first time by new Head Coach and U.S. Soccer legend Tab Ramos as it tries to continue a three-game undefeated streak after victory last time out. Hartford grabbed a 3-1 victory against the LA Galaxy II on Monday night as Andre Lewis and Mitchell Curry scored late at Dignity Health Sport Park to lift the visitors to victory. Hartford has scored late to earn results in each of its past three games, including an 83rd-minute goal by Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. on August 24 that lifted the side to a 2-1 win against Tulsa in the prior meeting between the teams this season at ONEOK Field. Tulsa is coming off a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night against Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC that saw Adrian Diz Pe score with five minutes to go to earn the side a point, but the side is now facing an eight-point deficit to the playoff places in the Eastern Conference with only five games to play, making Saturday’s first trip to Trinity Health Stadium a must-win for the club’s postseason hopes.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Mitchell Curry:
The former Sunderland player notched his first goal and assist for Hartford after coming off the bench against the Galaxy II and will look to make an impact again back on home turf.

FC Tulsa – Rodrigo da Costa: The Brazilian playmaker gave his side the lead against Louisville on Wednesday night for his eighth goal this season and will need to make a major impact on the road to help Tulsa take a vital victory.

Indy Eleven vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: IND 25%, BHM 49%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC will try to continue its drive toward a home game to open the postseason as it visits an Indy Eleven side that is undefeated in its last three outings as it returns home to the Circle City. Indy played to a 0-0 draw against Detroit City FC last Saturday night as Tim Trilk recorded a two-save shutout, keeping the side on a positive course despite its long odds to reach the playoffs. The Boys in Blue enter Saturday’s game 14 points behind seventh-placed Detroit with seven games to go in the regular season, but the hosts will be hoping to continue to build momentum as the first season of Head Coach Mark Lowry’s tenure draws closer. Legion FC, meanwhile, booked its playoff place for a fourth consecutive season on Wednesday night thanks to FC Tulsa’s draw with Louisville City FC and will now try to pick up victory on the road as it battles with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Birmingham played to a 1-1 draw with Miami FC last Saturday night as Bruno Lapa scored a second-half equalizer at Riccardo Silva Stadium, and will be hoping for a repeat of its most recent meeting with Indy last season – a 3-1 victory that saw Eli Crognale and Jake Rufe find the net in Birmingham – as they gear up for a crucial home clash with Pittsburgh next Wednesday night.

Spotlight Players
Indy Eleven – Neveal Hackshaw:
The Trinidad and Tobago international could make his return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension against Detroit last weekend, bringing additional experience to Indy’s lineup.

Birmingham Legion FC – Juan Agudelo: The former United States international was nominated for the Championship’s Player of the Month for August this week, but missed a penalty kick against Miami and will be aiming to get back on the scoresheet.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Louisville City FC

Venue: Highmark Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PIT 33%, LOU 38%, Draw 29%

The Lowdown: Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC will complete a two-game week as it heads to fourth-placed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night aiming to continue the success it has earned previously at Highmark Stadium. LouCity has never suffered defeat in eight prior visits to Pittsburgh across the regular season and playoffs, posting a 5-0-3 record in that span. The visitors also took a 2-0 victory when the teams played earlier this season at Lynn Family Stadium on goals by Wilson Harris and Enoch Mushagalusa, with Mushagalusa coming off a two-goal performance on Wednesday night in the side’s 2-2 draw against FC Tulsa to move to nine goals this season. That result moved LouCity four points ahead of second-placed Memphis 901 FC with six games to go in the regular season, but the two-time title winner is in need of a victory against the Hounds as it battles Western Conference leader San Antonio FC for the best record in the regular season while also looking to hold off a potential challenge from the Tampa Bay Rowdies, which is five points back but holds a game in hand on LouCity. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, returns home on a four-game undefeated streak after a 2-1 victory against Loudoun United FC last Sunday evening at Segra Field that saw Russell Cicerone and Edward Kizza find the net for the visitors. Cicerone’s goal was his team-leading 12th of the season, and his 40th regular season goal in the Championship of his career. Having clinched a playoff place for the fifth consecutive season after LouCity’s draw with FC Tulsa on Wednesday, the Hounds are now battling Birmingham Legion FC for fourth place and will be eager to end Louisville’s undefeated run at their home venue before a crucial game on Wednesday night against Legion FC at Protective Stadium.

Spotlight Players
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Russell Cicerone:
The standout forward is coming off a landmark night, but has yet to record a goal or assist in seven regular-season games against Louisville in his career.

Louisville City FC – Wilson Harris: The young forward has notched one goal and one assist in three prior games against the Hounds and will be looking for another strong performance to push his side to what would be an important victory.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. New Mexico United

Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: RGV 48%, NM 24%, Draw 29%

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC returns home after a major road victory on Wednesday night to play host to New Mexico United, which will look to rebound from a setback last time out and complete an undefeated season series against the Toros after taking four points from two prior meetings this season. New Mexico took victory against RGVFC in their first meeting of the season on July 6 on a late penalty kick by Justin Portillo before the Toros grabbed a 1-1 draw in their second meeting three days later as Jesus Vazquez scored a late equalizer at Isotopes Park. RGVFC earned a 2-0 victory against El Paso Locomotive FC in midweek, however, as goals by Frank Lopez and Christian Pinzon moved the side up to 10th place in the Western Conference, four points out of a playoff place with seven games to play in the regular season. The hosts will look to build on that result against a United side that fell 2-1 to Locomotive FC last Friday night at Isotopes Park despite Kevaughn Frater scoring his first goal for the club since a midseason return. New Mexico has been stronger on the road this season than at home with seven wins in 13 games, however, and it will be looking to solidify its fifth-place position in the Western Conference and move closer to a playoff berth with another road success.

Spotlight Players
Rio Grande Valley FC – Christian Pinzon:
The Mexican forward has recorded goals in four consecutive games for the Toros after finding the net against El Paso and will aim to continue that streak in another must-win game for the side.

New Mexico United – Amando Moreno: The El Salvador international notched his first assist of the season against El Paso last Friday night and will now take aim at his first goal since returning from a torn ACL midway through the campaign.

San Antonio FC vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SA 49%, SD 26%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: Western Conference leader San Antonio FC and second-placed San Diego Loyal SC meet for the second time this season with the hosts aiming to continue their drive to ending the season with the best record in the USL Championship, and SD Loyal looking to close the gap to top spot by completing a season sweep of the series between the clubs. San Diego took a 3-0 victory against SAFC in August at Torero Stadium as Evan Conway, Grant Stoneman and Kyle Vassell found the net for the hosts, but SD Loyal now finds itself eight points behind San Antonio in the standings after dropping its past two outings. San Diego took a first-half lead against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night through Nick Moon but succumbed to a 3-1 defeat that now sees the side sit only on point ahead of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in third place. San Antonio, meanwhile, took a 2-0 victory on the road against Oakland Roots SC last Saturday night as Samuel Adeniran scored both goals for the visitors at Laney Stadium. Adeniran now leads the team with nine goals this season and could prove key again on Saturday night as SAFC looks to maintain its edge on Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC for the best record in the regular season. With San Diego having the chance to clinch a playoff place with a victory, however, Saturday’s showdown could set the tone for a potential third meeting in the postseason.

Spotlight Players
San Antonio FC – Mitchell Taintor:
The standout center back will want to have a stronger performance than a difficult first meeting against San Diego this season which saw the league’s goal-scoring leaders strike three times.

San Diego Loyal SC – Collin Martin: The central midfielder put in a big performance in the victory against San Antonio earlier this season and could need to do the same this time as SAFC looks to turn the tables on its visitors.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: COS 45%, DET 28%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to add to a three-game winning streak as it plays host to Detroit City FC in one of two interconference clashes this weekend, with Le Rouge having taken victory in their last two road outings. The Switchbacks claimed a third consecutive 1-0 victory last Saturday night as El Salvador international Jairo Henriquez scored the only goal against Phoenix Rising FC at Weidner Field. Henriquez – who was named in La Selecta’s provisional squad to face Peru at the end of the month this week – has now scored three goals and added three assists in eight appearances for Colorado Springs since his midseason arrival at the club, helping put the Switchbacks in position to clinch a playoff place with a victory on Saturday night. Le Rouge, meanwhile, are coming off a 0-0 draw at home to Indy Eleven last Saturday night at Keyworth Stadium, but the Championship newcomer has taken victories on the road against Birmingham Legion FC and the Charleston Battery which has kept it on course for a postseason berth. Sitting with an eight-point lead on eighth-placed FC Tulsa going into the weekend’s action, DCFC will look to find a result on the road to maintain its course to a playoff berth as it looks for a second road victory against Western Conference opposition after defeat Las Vegas Lights FC previously this season at Cashman Field.

Spotlight Players
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Cam Lindley:
The central midfielder leads the Championship with 79 chances created this season while sitting second on nine assists and will likely have a major role to play again for the hosts.

Detroit City FC – Ryan Shellow: The goalkeeper is set to make his first appearance of the season in lieu of Nathan Steinwascher – who will be unavailable for selection – and will face a trial by fire against a powerful Switchbacks attack.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Venue: Cashman Field
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LV 34%, MB 36%, Draw 30%

The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will try to pass Las Vegas Lights FC and move into the playoff places in the USL Championship’s Western Conference as it heads to Cashman Field on the back of a two-game winning streak that has revived the first-year side’s postseason opportunities. MBFC took a 1-0 victory on Wednesday night against Orange County SC as Sam Gleadle’s second-half goal proved the difference at Cardinale Stadium, moving the hosts into ninth place in the Western standings. The goal was Gleadle’s third in the past two games with the English midfielder having scored twice in the side’s 3-1 victory against second-placed San Diego Loyal SC last weekend, and moved Monterey Bay within two points of Las Vegas, with Lights FC currently in seventh place in the standings. Las Vegas is coming off two difficult defensive outings as it returns home aiming to remain in the playoff positions, meanwhile, having suffered a 6-1 defeat against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. Cal Jennings scored a fine goal for the visitors, but it proved little more than a consolation as the Eastern Conference contender rolled up an impressive attacking display on home turf. Lights FC would boost its own playoff chances with a win as it currently sits three points behind sixth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC with two games in hand, but after conceding 11 goals in the past two games the hosts will need to get back to the solid defensive structure that has underwritten its prior success this season if it’s to claim a much-needed victory against one of its postseason rivals.

Spotlight Players
Las Vegas Lights FC – Tony Leone:
The Mexico U-20 international struggled in his return to the lineup against the Rowdies and will be aiming for a much-improved display against a solid Monterey Bay attacking corps.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Antony Siaha: The goalkeeper recorded his sixth shutout of the season against Orange County SC and is currently sporting an 0.55 goals-against average in 11 appearances since his insertion into the lineup midway through the campaign.

Orange County SC vs. LA Galaxy II

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 46%, LA 29%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Orange County SC and the LA Galaxy II will both be aiming to rebound from setbacks last time out as they square off for the final time in the USL Championship with Los Dos in need of a victory as it looks to maintain its push for the postseason. The Galaxy II conceded a pair of late goals last Monday night to suffer a 3-1 defeat to Hartford Athletic at Dignity Health Sports Park after Cameron Dunbar had found the net for the 10-player hosts with Jalen Neal having been sent off in the first half. A United States U-20 international, Neal will be unavailable for selection in the second 405 Derby of the season, a series in which OCSC took a 5-2 victory against Los Dos at Dignity Health Sports Park earlier this season. Milan Iloski scored twice in that encounter and will look to notch his 20th goal of the season on Saturday night as Orange County tries to rebound from a 1-0 defeat against Monterey Bay F.C. on Wednesday night at Cardinale Stadium. With Orange County now sitting nine points out of the playoffs places with six games to go, it needs a victory to maintain its slim chances of a postseason berth, but completing a season sweep of its local rival and denting Los Dos’ playoff chances would certainly offer a consolation in the 32nd meeting between the teams all-time.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Michael Orozco:
The former United States international will look to put in a strong defensive display to try and contain the attacking threat of Los Dos’ leading scorer Preston Judd, who scored when the teams last met.

LA Galaxy II – Cameron Dunbar: The 19-year-old winger has scored nine goals this season in a breakout campaign and will be looking for further success as Los Dos tries to find a way back above the playoff line.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Loudoun United FC

Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SAC 66%, LDN 13%, Draw 21%

The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will return home after the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday night looking to pick up a victory as it faces Loudoun United FC for the first time in club history. Sacramento fell to Major League Soccer club Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium in the Open Cup Final, coming up short in its bid to be the first lower-division side to win the tournament this century despite a valiant display that saw the hosts pull away for victory in the final 15 minutes. Republic FC remains in fourth place in the Western Conference as it returns to league action with seven games to go in the regular season and will be aiming to pick up a fifth victory against Eastern Conference opposition in six games this season against a Loudoun side that is on the verge of mathematical elimination from playoff contention. United fell 2-1 to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Sunday evening at Segra Field in its most recent outing, continuing a run of alternating losses and wins in its past five games, but the visitors have suffered defeat in each of their three prior road contests against Western Conference opposition, most recently falling 2-1 to San Antonio FC on August 10.

Spotlight Players
Sacramento Republic FC – Douglas Martinez Jr.:
The Honduran forward has scored five goals and three assists in the Championship this season and could be in line to make the start after coming on as a substitute against Orlando on Wednesday night.

Loudoun United FC – Jonathan Benteke: The younger brother of recent D.C. United signing Christian Benteke, Jonathan scored from the penalty spot in Loudoun’s clash with Pittsburgh as he made his debut for the club.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Oakland Roots SC

Venue: Wild Horse Pass
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PHX 40%, OAK 34%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC and Oakland Roots SC will square off for the second time this season, and the first since former Roots SC Head Coach Juan Guerra made the move to take the same position at Rising FC late last month, in what is a must-win for both teams in the Western Conference playoff race. Phoenix enters in 12th place after suffering a 1-0 defeat on the road against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night at Weidner Field, a result that saw Rising FC fall for the third time in the past four games and leave the team five points out of the playoff positions with seven games remaining. Roots SC also fell in its most recent outing, suffering a 2-0 defeat to Western Conference leader San Antonio FC last Saturday night at Laney Stadium that left the side in 11th place in the standings going into this weekend’s action and four points out of the playoff positions with six games to play. Oakland has claimed one win in three games under interim Head Coach Noah Delgado since Guerra’s departure, but the side has claimed victory only twice on the road in 13 games so far this season, adding pressure to the need for a result this time around after the sides ended scoreless in their meeting in Oakland on July 27.

Spotlight Players
Phoenix Rising FC – JJ Williams:
The veteran forward has scored twice in six appearances for Phoenix since his midseason arrival from Birmingham Legion FC but has gone three goals without finding the net going into Saturday’s game.

Oakland Roots SC – Ottar Magnus Karlsson: Roots SC’s leading scorer return to action for the first time since becoming a father late last month as a halftime substitute against San Antonio FC and could be in line to start in a must-win game for his side.

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